Richard Dawkins and the ‘Absence of Belief’

dawkinsRichard Dawkins and the New Atheists have popularized the idea that atheism, contrary to other positions, is not a belief; it is simply ‘the absence of belief’ in God or a supreme being.  It almost sounds esoteric. Theists believe that God exists and atheists merely lack that belief. Well, on that view, my Chevy is just as much of an atheist as Richard Dawkins, for it, too, lacks the belief that God exists. And I don’t say that lightly; I love my Chevy.

Now, there is some truth to the idea that atheists ‘lack belief.’ They do. But that’s not enough. Like I said, what is it that separates an atheist from my Chevy? My Chevy lacks belief in God. Animals lack belief in God. Newborn babies lack belief in God. There are lots of things that lack belief in God and yet aren’t atheists. It takes more than ‘lack of belief’ to define an atheist.

Furthermore, Atheism isn’t the only worldview that lacks belief in God. All non-theists lack belief. The lack of belief is an umbrella definition that groups together three different types of non-theism: atheism, agnosticism, and apatheism. Atheists, agnostics, and apatheists all lack belief in God, but for different reasons.  Some atheists take offense at being called agnostics, and rightly so, for their position is more defined. But if atheism is simply the absence of belief, then what is the difference between an atheist and an agnostic? Both atheists and agnostics lack belief in God, but we need to clarify the distinction.

 Lack_of_Belief

All atheists lack belief in God, but not all who lack belief in God are atheists. This means that it isn’t enough for an atheist to only say that she lacks belief in God–there needs to be more. If an atheist says that she lacks belief in God, while that’s all well and true, she must further define her position: Why does she not believe in God? If it’s because she doesn’t know if God exists, then she is an agnostic. If it’s because she doesn’t care, then she’s an apatheist. If it’s because she maintains that there is no God in which to believe in, then she is an atheist. But notice that last one: the atheist maintains that there is no God, i.e. she holds the belief that the proposition, ‘There is no God’ is true about the world.

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy defines Atheism as: “the negation of theism, the denial of the existence of God. (1)” There is a subtle, but important difference between not believing in something and believing that something is not (does not exist). Atheism adopts the latter position in holding that God does not exist. Atheism is more than mere lack of belief, it is the denial of the existence of God. Mere lack of belief makes the atheist no different from a newborn baby or my Chevy.

(1). http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/atheism-agnosticism/

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DISCLAIMER: Blog entries made by individual authors reflect the views of the author and not necessarily the view of other CAA authors, or the official position of the group at large.
About Paul Rezkalla

Paul graduated from NYU with degrees in Religious Studies and History. He has recently completed a MA in Philosophy from the University of Birmingham in England and is now pursuing a second MA in Theology. His interests are too many to list and too varied to make sense of.

  • staircaseghost

    What actual, specific, concrete, real-world (i.e. not merely verbal) consequences fall out of your thesis?

    For example, if my city council holds its quarterly budgeting meeting, and plans ahead on the assumption that Jesus most likely will “not” bless our town with several million dollars in a briefcase fallen from the clouds, can I sue them on 1st Amendment grounds, since they are “making positive religious claims”, rather than merely “lacking a particular belief”?

    • mourningdemocracy

      Staircase, use a more practical example because believing that Jesus would throw money down from the clouds is nonsense. You’d probably have a case of mental disturbance against them if they vote expenditures based on such a fallacy. Jesus taught very practical capitalism, which stands economies in good stead that practice it correctly even today, even those who deny Jesus and Christianity.

  • Mark Hall

    Atheism is a conclusion that God does not exist based on the lack of compelling evidence to the contrary. No matter what sort of linguistic gymnastics you wish to use, it is not a positive claim.

    In much the same way, a-Bigfoot-ism is a conclusion that Bigfoot does not exist based on the lack of compelling evidence. Am I required to offer positive proof that Bigfoot does not exist in order to express that disbelief? What about a-fairy-ism? A-Odin-ism? Why is it so desperately important that in this one specific case we provide proof of what we do not believe in?

    • mourningdemocracy

      Not true, Mark. Atheism is a conclusion that the circumstantial evidence that exists is insufficient or false. Seeking for compelling evidence puts goalposts down with roller skates on them, so as soon as the evidence has to be considered, they slide off in another direction.

      Even juries oftentimes deny circumstantial evidence, while others accept it. Some will believe the Bible and some would not.

      I dare to suggest that very few atheists have ever read the Bible and blindly follow activists such as Dawkins, and even less have read it with an open mind, as a members of a jury should consider their verdict.

      • Mark Hall

        “Atheism is a conclusion that the circumstantial evidence that exists is insufficient or false.”

        Well, yes, but only because better evidence is, for some reason, no longer available. It allegedly was at one time – Adam, Eve, Lot, Noah, Moses, some of the Apostles, the “shepherds in their fields by night” – all had clear and unequivocal evidence of God’s existence. Various others had better evidence than modern-day Christians are able to provide – a pillar of fire or smoke to guide them, for instance. Now, though, we’re forced to quarrel over meager circumstantial evidence. Why is that?

        “I dare to suggest that very few atheists have ever read the Bible and blindly follow activists such as Dawkins, and even less have read it with an open mind…”

        An interesting hypothesis – but not supported by even a superficial analysis. We live in a culture steeped in religion. Most atheists started as members of a church, were raised as believers, and therefore are at least as well educated in the Bible as the average believer. Most reacted to their original doubts by studying the questions in more depth, before finally rejecting the religious answers. It took an open mind to leave their faith – why do you assume they no longer have it?

        • mourningdemocracy

          You state that most atheists started as members of a church.. etc. I doubt
          that “most” atheists were members of a church. I’d propose that most
          atheists are children of parents who held to a belief of letting their kids
          decide for themselves when they grow up which religion they want to follow, if
          any.

          Yes, we do live in a culture steeped in religion, which has been the case
          since time immemorial because that’s the nature of man. Never has there been an
          age where people didn’t yearn to follow the precepts of a power outside of
          themselves, and there never will be. Even atheists, most of them, at least,
          obey laws beyond themselves. No intellectually honest person would claim to be
          self-sufficient in moral direction because moral direction cannot originate
          from within the follower.

          Now, if you were to claim that you are your own moral author and follower
          that would make for an interesting philosophical contradiction, wouldn’t it. That
          would be to claim proper anchoring of a ship by throwing the anchor onto the
          bottom deck and accuse all the other ships bobbing and weaving in the ocean from
          being unanchored.

          The question that remains is which moral author is true and which one is
          pure imagination. Is it nature, Buddha, Yahweh, or another God. Anyone who
          asserts to have escaped all notions of belief in something outside of
          themselves, are, well, not honest about themselves and nature. For example,
          most atheists don’t steal, don’t lie, and don’t kill. Where does the sense of
          obedience to these principles come from? That would be the moral author that I
          referred to.

          The Bible proposes a certain doctrine, as Buddhism, Islam, and any other
          religion does. The point is whether the doctrine is true or not. Or, would it
          withstand a test of circumstantial evidence or not. No other religion can
          produce prophecies made thousands of years before their fulfillment, or
          prophecies that occurred hours before they happened. That’s what the Bible
          teaches, whether you believe it or not, nobody can deny that the Bible teaches
          that. The veracity of the Bible is another conversation.

          Your hypothesis that most atheists were raised as believers is already a
          contradiction in terms because education does not make a believer. There is
          also no such thing as an average believer when one speaks of Christianity. A
          character of Christianity is that its believers never remain stagnant but they
          always pursue more knowledge and deeper understanding and a renewing of their
          minds. Some will reject and move away, understandably.

          If someone studies the (Christian) “questions in more depth” honestly
          and then reject the religious answers, then we agree on the circumstantial evidence
          premise that some would accept the evidence and others would not, as I suggested
          even happens in jury trials, even when the evidence is more concrete than pure
          circumstantial.

          To suggest that it takes an “open mind” to leave one’s faith is
          rather a stretch because if one leaves the faith I’d rather conclude that they
          never had the faith to begin with, but they had a knowledge that they judged to
          be at variance with their beliefs (faith).

          If one firmly and convincing believes that one has been rescued from a
          certain eternal death by the action of another and now is totally free from any
          condemnation and assured of an eternal life, that faith cannot be shaken or
          moved.

          For one to reject that knowledge (not faith), the knowledge has to be
          considered a fallacy in only one aspect: one is not convinced that one is subject
          to certain eternal death. Once one believes (and here the faith of the atheist
          comes into play) that there was never eternal condemnation even before one has
          been born, then the whole doctrine of Christianity becomes inapplicable,
          irrelevant.

          So, it’s not an open mind that rejects Christianity, it’s a closed mind, a
          mind that believes that one can reach perfection without any outside redemption
          or sanctification, which is, if you think about it, rather pretentious. But,
          that is my conclusion.

          The Bible teaches that two will look at the same evidence, one will reject
          it and the other will accept it and embrace it. And nothing anyone can do will
          convince either to change their belief, except by divine intervention, which
          atheists do not believe is possible.

          You see, Mark, atheists and Christians can exist side-by-side peacefully,
          but for some reason atheists have a vendetta against Christians that reaches
          beyond our faith. We are no threat to you and neither are atheists who are
          tolerant of others a threat to Christians. But atheists demand that we turn
          against our God and follow you. Too many of Christian believers have been
          burned at the stake, or quartered and drawn by other so-called Christians, for
          us to relinquish our beliefs and set sail with you without a compass and
          without a destination.

          My question to atheists in general (like Richard Dawkins) is, why are you so
          consumed by what we believe? Why is it so important for Dawkins to take every
          opportunity to “prove” that God didn’t create the universe in 144
          hours, while he has no idea (his own admission) how things started either. How
          is that important to him? How will his acceptance that we will always disagree about
          this change our world?

          Unless he has an agenda to eradicate all Christians?

          Like denying the Judeo-Christian principles on which this great nation was
          founded? That would result in tyranny and the institution of an aristocracy.
          Does he hope to receive a peerage of some kind?

          Why shouldn’t we suspect that you, too, are a henchman of those who desire the
          destruction of this nation?

          • Mark Hall

            “I doubt that “most” atheists were members of a church.”

            Well, your doubt is a rather poor substitute for evidence. I was unable to find any statistics on how many/what percentage atheists were formerly religious. Anecdotally, though, Richard Dawkins was an Anglican. PZ Myers attended an Evangelical Lutheran church. Dan Barker was an Evangelical preacher. Ed Brayton was a devoted evangelical church member. Jerry DeWitt was a Pentacostal minister. There are many other examples, of course.

            In lieu of hard data, though, and noting that anecdotes are _not_ a good replacement, I have to point out that since the vast majority of children are raised to be religious, the most likely conclusion is that a similar majority of atheists were raised to be religious. Your doubts, your unsupported assumption that atheists are the result of laissez-faire parenting is self-serving, and contradicts at least some of what we both know of atheism.

            “No intellectually honest person would claim to be self-sufficient in moral direction because moral direction cannot originate from within the follower. …That would be to claim proper anchoring of a ship by throwing the anchor onto the bottom deck and accuse all the other ships bobbing and weaving in the ocean from being unanchored.”

            Well, no, I see it more as being self-propelling – a ship sets it’s own direction and moves towards its destination. I suppose if you are completely satisfied with the status quo, comparing your moral direction to the movement of a ship at anchor makes sense.

            “For example, most atheists don’t steal, don’t lie, and don’t kill. Where does the sense of obedience to these principles come from?”

            Socialization. We are social animals, evolved to live in groups. Doing that necessitates some form of moral or ethical code – as seen not only in humans, but also in lower primates.

            “Your hypothesis that most atheists were raised as believers is already a contradiction in terms because education does not make a believer. There is also no such thing as an average believer when one speaks of Christianity.”

            A basic “No True Scotsman” fallacy, here. And confirmed by a later line…

            “To suggest that it takes an “open mind” to leave one’s faith is rather a stretch because if one leaves the faith I’d rather conclude that they never had the faith to begin with…”

            Simply put, your are claiming that any Christian who leaves the religion was never a “true” Christian in the first place. A completely self-confirming circular claim.

            “Once one believes…that there was never eternal condemnation even before one has been born, then the whole doctrine of Christianity becomes inapplicable, irrelevant.”

            Well, yes, sort of – if there is no eternal life, then Christianity (and most other religions) are clearly false, founded on fantasy. I’m with you so far…

            “So, it’s not an open mind that rejects Christianity, it’s a closed mind, a mind that believes that one can reach perfection without any outside redemption or sanctification…”

            Sorry? Where did reaching perfection come in? I believe that when I die, I will cease entirely to exist, a null state of oblivion. I don’t see that as any form of perfection, nor do I expect to reach perfection before then. I did, at one time, believe in eternal life. I no longer do. My mind was open enough to see the flaws and contradictions in the religion I was taught. How is blindly accepting what you were taught more open?

            “And nothing anyone can do will convince either to change their belief, except by divine intervention, which atheists do not believe is possible.”

            That’s true, we don’t believe that to be possible. But our belief is irrelevant. So is yours. Either your god exists, and such intervention is possible, or he doesn’t and it isn’t. One of us is wrong – but belief will not tell us which.

            “You see, Mark, atheists and Christians can exist side-by-side peacefully, but for some reason atheists have a vendetta against Christians that reaches beyond our faith.”

            Well, gee, I wonder why. Could it be the long history of torture and execution of non-Christians, or even Christians who vary slightly from the accepted doctrinal belief? Perhaps it is the still-common discrimination – such as the seven states that still retain constitutional provisions barring atheists from holding public office or serving on juries. Or the 55% of Americans who would refuse to vote for anyone identifying as atheist. Or the mandatory prayer and religious observances we find in government meetings, public schools, and military ceremonies. Or the death threats and vicious attacks so commonly aimed at anyone who dares speak out against church/state entanglements.

            You say that Christians are no threat to tolerant atheists. But the evidence of history – from thousands of years ago right up to today – shows us that the only way to avoid attacks upon us for our atheism is to never, ever admit it. To claim religious belief we do not actually hold. To attend church, say the magic words, engage in the sit/stand/kneel calisthenics, or whatever other silly ritual is required. To profess our support for the local majority religion in public, and keep our doubts in private silence.

            And this is the answer to…

            “My question to atheists in general (like Richard Dawkins) is, why are you so consumed by what we believe?”

            Because YOUR beliefs affect us. They affect the laws under which we live, such as laws against homosexuality, or forbidding blasphemy. They affect the public’s willingness to act in the face of global catastrophe, such as anthropogenic climate change. And they affect our day-to-day interactions with believers who can only tolerate our views so long as they never, ever hear about them.

            • mourningdemocracy

              We can go on forever about how and why people became atheists and we wouldn’t achieve anything. I can also cite many atheists and people who never heard the gospel before who became Christians after reading the Bible. I did find your “self-propelling” analogy in response to my “anchor” analogy, quite instructive, with your destination a dead-end, the grave. Anyway, that’s what you believe and I accept it. Peacefully.

              The meat of the argument, however, lies within your account of why atheists are aggressively attacking Christians. You are right, Christians do not want atheists to be in positions of power anywhere, for many reasons, some of which you cited.

              The reason is that this country was founded on Judeo-Christian principles — not the religion, the principles because not all of the founders were believers. They did, however, realize that anyone who practices these principles would without fail harvest the value and virtue of them. One can distill these principles down to don’t lie, don’t steal and don’t kill as I have said before. Atheists as a general rule will practice these principles, but when it comes to gaining power, among other pursuits, they will violate these principles at will when they deem it beneficial for their cause, which is hardly ever religious.

              The whole concept of Americanism is that the people are the sovereign of the nation, not a person or a parliament. Government is made up of emissaries of the Sovereign who are charged with certain duties to do what all emissaries do for their Sovereign.

              First and foremost emissaries must protect the Sovereign from bodily and material harm, that is, to protect and defend him at all costs even at the risk of death or injury. Secondly, emissaries are charged to serve the Sovereign and ensure he is not hindered in doing whatever makes him happy. And thirdly, the emissaries must swear an oath that they would be willing to give even their lives to ensure that the Sovereign is never, ever captured and dragged off as a servant to anyone, ever.

              As long as everyone holds to don’t lie, don’t steal, and don’t kill, the people will remain sovereign and the Sovereign will remain protected, defended, and free to pursue whatever he chooses to do.

              Forever in history emissaries schemed and plotted to overthrow their Sovereign and it is not unique and no different here in the United States. Overthrowing this Sovereign requires dismantling the principles upon which that Sovereignty has been founded and rested for the past 200+ years resulting in never before seen success, prosperity and liberty.

              The religious expressions you cite and which you despise are the consequences of the fibers of this nation as Sovereign, so why would anyone vote an atheist into a position of power if it is the stated goal of the candidate to dethrone the Sovereign and create lawlessness?

              Remember, it is Richard Dawkins, the high priest of atheism, that declared that atheists will not conform to authority.

              That’s a huge, deal-breaker admission that has given real Americans clarity on what atheists are really aiming to do.

              Lawlessness comes from not enforcing the law, not from breaking the law and to enforce the law require authority and obedience. None of that is present in atheism, according to Dawkins.

              This positions atheism diametrically opposed to those principles that keep this nation safe and honorable, and the cases you cited in which you feel persecuted demonstrate that you are as alien to this nation as Jihadists anywhere in the Middle East are. They also desire to destroy the “Great Satan”. Abortion supporters (atheists, I would imagine) chanted “Hail Satan” when they protested pro-life activists in July. That makes atheists and jihadists bedfellows and partners in the objective to destroy this nation, you know, like, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” kind of thinking.

              Why would any American, who treasures the liberties and prosperity that these founding principles work for all who preserve and practice them, vote any atheist into a position of power?

              Why would any American believe an atheist who puts his left hand on the Bible, raises his right hand, and swears to uphold, protect and defend the U.S. Constitution “so help me God”?

              What would make anyone expect that such an oath is binding on the atheist’s conscience? Surely, everyone would know that the atheist, taking the oath of office, is lying knowing full well that his designs are to dismantle the U.S. Constitution. Voting atheists as emissaries of the Sovereign is sheer suicide and madness.

              It is not Christians who deny you all the things you say you are prevented from doing or have to endure under duress, it is the fiber of America against which you collide with your adverse designs on this nation that denies you those things.

              In your world the people are not sovereign, because if that were the case you would have obeyed your sovereign, not scheme to overthrow him. How will your disgust for true Americans play out if you get what you want? It is perfectly predictable: tyranny and mass murder, as the atheists’ spiritual ancestors have proven over and over again in Pol Pot, Mao, Hitler, Stalin, and many others in history.

              You are wrong about having to hide the fact that you are an atheist. Christians may once in a while tell you about heaven and hell and the good news in the Bible but there will be no repercussions if you ignore them. Other than that, you can enjoy all the liberties that this nation promises to everybody else without any fear.

              You just cannot get your hands on the reins of power because you have told us in no uncertain terms that you will work all your might to dethrone our Sovereign. We can’t have that.

              The very instant that you are convinced that the Constitution is either out of date, not significant any longer, or wrong, you have denied your Americanism and have become a mere De Jure American, one whose passport says you are an American. Real changes to the Constitution happen through a specific process in which the Sovereign agrees that it needs changing.

              If that makes you uncomfortable or it becomes unbearable, you are free to go and live where your values are practiced. Here, you will have to obey the will and decree of the Sovereign.

      • Ron

        I dare to state that this particular atheist became a non-believer as a direct consequence of reading the Bible from cover to cover several decades prior to knowing that Richard Dawkins even existed.

        • mourningdemocracy

          That’s to be commended, Ron. Not necessarily that you rejected the teachings of the Bible but that you took the trouble of reading it and making a decision based upon what you learned.
          Without trying to proselytize, I am curious to know which are the main points that caused you to reject the entire Christian doctrine?

          • Ron

            IMHO, the doctrine of vicarious redemption—the proposition that innocent third parties can serve as substitutes for the guilty in receiving punishment—is one of the most vile and morally repugnant concepts of all the Christian doctrines. How does such an act bring about justice? No western court of law would allow someone to serve as a stand-in for a death row inmate. Nor would the public accept such an option.

            And forgiveness doesn’t require anything more than the extension of forgiveness. A sacrifice is completely extraneous to that process, so why would an all-powerful being need to engage in such an elaborate and pointless exercise?

            • mourningdemocracy

              Ron,
              I must admit I didn’t expect your response. It’s not a common criticism from atheists but it is nevertheless a legitimate one.

              Let me start by what the Bible teaches about God. You don’t have to believe it, just acknowledge that it is what the Bible teaches, as anyone can verify. It will never do justice trying to explain in such a short space what the Bible teaches about God’s justice. However, I’ll try to be as concise and to the point as I can.

              We need to see what the Bible teaches about God’s character to understand the consequences of sin and evil. The Bible teaches that God is eternal, almighty, omniscient, omnipresent, immutable, just, infinitely good, a spirit and many other things.

              God allowed Adam and Eve all liberties in the Garden of Eden except two things: they may not eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and the tree of life or they will certainly die.

              Adam and Eve, according to the Bible, succumbed to the temptations of Satan and ate of the fruit of one of the trees, which isn’t a mere infraction, but a major denouncement of God and an embracing of Satan and evil. The question may now be asked whether God would be just if He just swept this disobedience under the rug and allowed evil into his presence, or should He execute his justice by killing them as the consequence of their disobedience? Either God wasn’t serious about his justice, which is impossible, or He has to kill humanity.

              Out of his mercy He deferred their death and cursed creation showing them the corruption and death they brought about, while they were created perfectly capable of resisting Satan and evil. The corruption and bodily death are signs that point to their eternal death that they would eventually suffer.

              The justice of God cannot be altered: if He promises death upon disobedience, then death will follow disobedience, it cannot be altered. The Bible stresses this point to assure mankind that God’s other promises will be delivered as sure as He didn’t waiver on this one, the most profound of all; the one on which He could have waivered to save his creation. But, God’s justice could not be compromised.

              The Bible teaches, furthermore, that long before God created the universe He wrote the names of those whom He wanted in heaven to be with Him for eternity into a book, called the book of life. Nobody, but those whose names He wrote into this book will He take with Him. So, killing humanity at the fall in the Garden would have violated His eternal plan, which He wouldn’t do. Deferring their demise, so that deliverance can be made, was part of the plan, but they were nevertheless thrown into the cesspool of eternal death the instant they succumbed to Satan, the signs of which were evident in their corrupted nature and ability to do evil.

              So, we see two kinds of law here: the law of God, and the civil law, the latter which God gave to the civil magistrate (governments, kings) as a mirror of his justice and to teach mankind to flee from evil and obey authority. The civil law demands punishment for violations and the execution of the sentence regardless whether the violator has a change of heart. God’s law, on the other hand, demands that the violator is truly sorry for his violations and repent from his evil with a change of heart, which brings a cancellation of the sentence.

              You cannot, therefore, equate God’s law with the civil law, which is only a reflection of God’s law.

              About your question of a substitute sacrifice for man’s sins. The Bible teaches that there is no violation of divine justice, which states that the innocent ought not to suffer for the guilty, except if the following are true:

              1. The substitute must willingly offer himself in the place of the guilty.
              2. The substitute must be able to make a sufficient sacrifice, that is, the guilty must be utterly and entirely free of guilt after the sacrifice has been made.
              3. The substitute must be able to fully recover from his sacrifice and not perish or become defiled by it.
              4. That those for whom the substitute makes satisfaction may not in future offend God’s law.
              5. And, that the substitute must be of the same nature as those for whom satisfaction is made. A human for humans.

              It stands to reason, then, that a mortal could never make satisfaction for another’s transgressions because the substitute cannot survive the sacrifice or remain untainted by it, if death is not the sentence, which is why the civil law rightly prohibits it, which you spotted.

              The only substitute that is able to comply with all five conditions is someone who is a human, not only immortal, but indestructible, too. That is, it must be a man who is able to suffer the death God pronounced onto mankind and emerge unscathed after the final and sufficient sacrifice has been made.

              The Bible teaches that there is no such man. So, God himself assumed the body of a man, and died for the sins of mankind, so that God’s justice is properly and perfectly executed and remains intact. Those whose names are in the book of life have received forgiveness, not as in being excused from punishment, as the civil law would do, but as in receiving a receipt that their debt has been paid in full. That is, they stand before God as if they successfully endured the punishment God has pronounced over them for their evil.

              The Bible shows us many instances in the Old Testament where God appeared in the body of a man to demonstrate to the Jews the manner in which the Messiah would come. Some believed it and some didn’t. Some still don’t.

              You can see why Richard Dawkins’ statement that atheists do not conform to authority is such a profound admission of not only the propagation of evil but lawlessness?

              That is what the Bible teaches. Christians believe this.

  • Frank

    I think I know why it’s important to Paul and many believers. Because they are trying to equivocate believers and non believers in terms of faith. If atheism is a positive belief, then it’s one step closer to being a religious view that requires positive evidence to prove, without which non believers have just as much faith as believers. It’s an intellectualized form of “I know you are but what am I?”

    Since when is the Stanford encyclopedia the authority? If you look around, atheism has both definitions, just like many other words, and is used in more than one way.

    The easiest way to think about atheism is the null hypothesis.

  • tildeb

    “I believe in…” is a positive statement of belief. “I do not believe in…” is a negation of that belief. What follows the ellipses, if we use the common term ‘God’, is the assumed notion of “a sophisticated monotheism.” In a exactly the same way (assuming common usage), the author of the The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy defines atheism to be just such a negation of theism, which is why he or she goes on to explain why ” pantheism can be ontologically indistinguishable from
    atheism” if we hold true to what is meant by the term ‘God’ in common usage.

    Atheism, therefore, remains as Dawkins says: a statement of non belief in the positive claim for a sophisticated monotheism. The SEP does not disagree with this.

    Atheism in this sense is not more than mere lack of belief, nor is it is the denial of the existence of God. TRo be clear, it is a negation of sharing the belief. This lack of belief returns us to the default position shared by all theists in regards to beliefs they do not support. If you want to compare your atheism, Paul, to that of your Chevy, go right ahead. You’ll be in good company. But when you make an exception to this default position, then the onus is on you to justify your faith-based belief with reality-based evidence. Denying reality the role to arbitrate claims made about it and substituting word games in its place is not a auspicious beginning.

  • Marvin Torgeson

    Atheism is a religion, a paradigm by which all atheists weigh evidence, interpret data and start their reasoning processes. The mere lack of belief is purely clap trap jargoning by Dawkins. For Atheism; absence of belief is equivalent to belief in the absence of God, otherwise it would be agnosticism as was stated earlier. This is Dawkins blowing smoke. For good reason his think tank would have him keep Atheism from looking exactly like a religion, though it is one, just anti-God-religion.

    Its important to recognize that Atheism is aggressively against God and a militant antagonist like Dawkins pits himself against a God that he says does not exist. This action to resist is a positive act that anyone can deduce contains a positive mindset that God does not exist and their belief is seen in their actions. If they were passive against it like they are flying spaghetti monsters, their claims might be believable, but because they don’t treat God like the F.S.M. Dawkins is just coaching his atheist team in the modern use of atheist vernacular.

  • mourningdemocracy

    Dawkins demonstrates the ailment of some atheists, that their activism against a God-belief — as described in the Bible — goes beyond their personal choices by arguing from the position of someone who accepts that there is a God (contrary to their denial) and then renders judgment on God. It is demonstrated in a claim such as, “God is a child killer and a mass murderer” among others.

    I am not arguing that they are purposely intellectually dishonest, but if one states that there is no God, then the more honest claim should be phrased more accurately: “The Bible teaches that God is a child killer and a mass murderer.” That places the atheist in the correct and honest perspective of his claim.

    Now the believer can point to the other things that the Bible teaches, such as that eternal death befell mankind at the fall in the Garden and God had every right to destroy humanity right there on the spot. The Bible teaches that it is solely by God’s mercy and grace that He didn’t instantly destroy the human race. So, God ordering the killing of anyone is just an execution of that right which was deferred for the sake of God’s justice, honor and glory. That is what the Bible teaches without demanding that the atheist, or anyone else, believes it. All that is demanded is the intellectually honest position of acknowledging that it is what is written in the Bible. Nothing more and nothing less.

    To the atheist, if one considers the ferocity of their campaigns against believers, it has nothing to do with one’s belief in or not of what’s written in the Bible. It has to do with the rejection of authority of any kind, as Dr. Dawkins himself wrote: “Indeed, organizing atheists has been compared to herding cats, because they tend to think independently and will not conform to authority.” (The God Delusion)

    In that statement alone the whole thesis of atheism, as professed by Dawkins, is captured. It also exposes their real motive, which is to eradicate belief in the God of the Bible and specifically Christians. Their rejection of conformance to authority is anything but independent thinking; it is rather cloistered thinking because one cannot think independently and then “not conform to authority.”

    Independent thinkers consider all options, especially the power of authority and the laws that flow from it, and plan a course of action dependent on belief, experience, and desired outcome. It is not considering all the options that leads to not conforming to authority as a belief. As terrorists, murderers, despots, racists and other misfits of an orderly society do.

    I know many people who are upstanding citizens, defenders of the Constitution (which is relevant because they hold to principles outside of themselves, similar to Christians and the Bible) and upholders of morals and the law who do not believe in God. I consider them atheists; Richard Dawkins is an activist for the destruction of Christianity who uses atheism as a convenient tool to accomplish his goals. If his battlefield was in the 1930’s Europe, he would have been a Nazi. If it was in 1918 Russia, he would have been a warrior for Stalin, in China for Mao, in Constantinople in 717 a Muslim, and so on.

    Let’s not be misguided by this man and his following. Their beliefs have nothing to do with belief in God or not. It has everything to do with Christians and their right to exist, and he wouldn’t bat an eyelid if we were all exterminated.

  • Dixon G. Gwion

    Both atheist, agnosticism and apathies needs to understand that GOD exist. GOD is the creator of all things, including them